‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos
French police officers check passports at the border. Photo by Iroz Gaizka / AFP

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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Everything you need to know about the new Berlin-Paris night train

After being offline for around a decade, the French and German capitals are again getting a direct night train linking them, with the first one departing on Monday evening. From frequency to costs, here’s the basics of a new rail trip from Paris to Berlin.

Everything you need to know about the new Berlin-Paris night train

For train travel enthusiasts looking for climate-friendly rail travel options between two of the biggest capitals in Europe – it’s been a long nine years. But with night trains making a comeback in Europe, Berlin in particular has been getting several nighttime options in the last year – with a service to Paris potentially being it’s biggest yet.

READ ALSO: Berlin-Paris night train returns after nine years

Who operates this train? Where can I buy a ticket?

The Berlin-Paris night train is operated by Austrian state rail company ÖBB, which will use Mannheim in Germany as a hub for its night train fleet.

With ÖBB operating night services from both Brussels and Paris at one end to Berlin and Vienna on the other, passengers leaving on a Nightjet train from either European capital will board specific train cars assigned for either Berlin or Vienna. It’ll be very important for travellers to board the right car, as they’ll be rearranged in Mannheim with one train taking the Berlin-bound cars north to the German capital and the Vienna-bound cars heading south for the Austrian border.

There’s several different ways you can book a ticket online. French rail SNCF, German state rail DB, and Austrian rail ÖBB all have online booking pages for the Nightjet. ÖBB’s page allows you to purchase from the operator directly and has one of the more user-friendly layouts for comparing prices and your various travel options. However, there are some other travel portals like Rail Europe, Nachtzug (night train), or Trainline where you can also search and book.

READ ALSO: What to know about the new planned cross-border train services between Austria and Germany

How long is the trip and when does it go?

The Berlin to Paris leg of the trip will leave Berlin at 20:18 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – before arriving in Paris at 10:24 the next morning.

The train will travel in reverse from Paris to Berlin on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays – leaving at 19:12 and arriving in Berlin at 8:26 the next morning.

Depending on the direction, that obviously leaves a travel time of around 13 to 14 hours overnight.

Operators do, however, plan to make Berlin-Paris a nightly service by the end of the year – meaning that people will be able to travel in either direction any day.

KEY POINTS: How Germany’s long-distance train services will change next year

Where else does the train stop?

The Paris to Berlin Nightjet will stop in Halle, Erfurt, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg – in addition to the stop it makes in Mannheim to rearrange cars by destination – depending on whether passengers in the various cars are headed to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, or Vienna.

REVEALED: The best night trains running through Germany

What seat or sleeping options are there available and what do they cost?

There’s three broad categories of places on the train you can book – with each one having a few different sub-categories as well.

You can buy yourself a regular seat, a bunk in a cabin of couchettes, or a full sleeper cabin.

READ ALSO: 6 European cities you can reach from France by high-speed train

Going cheap on a night train – seat options

For seats, you can buy yourself either an individual seat on the train or a private compartment with seats for you and up to two other people. A private compartment will normally have six seats, but the night train will allow only a maximum of three people in each compartment. That way, each person can put their feet up on a second seat.

However, to do this, you need to buy the whole compartment. This will cost at least €100 and could easily be more expensive – depending on how far in advance you book and if you book at a busy time – like a holiday.

An individual seat is your cheapest option – for about €34 minimum. It might be fairly uncomfortable though for a 14-hour, overnight trip.

READ ALSO: Amsterdam-Paris-Berlin rail link likely ‘to come by 2027’

Budget sleeping – couchette bunks

People travelling as a group, particularly families, might find this the easiest option.

You can reserve a full cabin of couchette bunks for a base price of about €200. However, depending on when you’re travelling – this could end up being more expensive. So take care to look for cheaper options on a different day if you have the flexibility, or simply try to book far in advance.

Cheaper individual options will see you shell out at least €50 for a berth in a six-bed cabin or €60 for a spot in a four-bed couchette cabin.

If you reserve a couchette berth, breakfast is included and you’ll get dedicated bed linen.

EXPLAINED: How travelling by train between Berlin and the UK is now easier

Night train travelling in style

For those willing to splurge, there’s a variety of full sleeper car options available to travel in relative comfort.

The cheapest sleeper cars will see you pay a minimum of €80 for a spot in a three-bed sleeper car – or a minimum of €110 for a place in a two-bed sleeper car. Those might, however, be great options for a group of friends or a couple.

The most comfortable – and expensive way to travel the new Paris-Berlin night train, by private sleeper car. Source: Harald Eisenberger / Nightjet

Single travellers can shell out a minimum of €160 for a completely private sleeping car.

While all these options include fresh bed linen, breakfast, and a private sink – those willing to part with even more of their money can purchase “Plus” tickets for their triple, double, or single sleeper car spots.

These plus options mean the cabin comes with a private toilet and shower. These Plus options, however, can be considerably more expensive – potentially costing you double what a regular sleeper seat would. If you’re tempted, be sure to check the specific options for the day you want to travel.

READ ALSO: Berlin to get new night train service to Stockholm